Mercedes-Benz first showed off its AVTR Vision concept car at CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, in January 2020. Inspired by the James Cameron blockbuster Avatar, the vehicle showed off some of Mercedes-Benz's wildest ideas for what the future of four-wheeled mobility might look like... and the answer is, it thinks the future of design is biological. We never thought we'd see more than a shell and some sketches, but now Mercedes has shown off a working unit in a 13-minute YouTube video.
More paws than wheels — In the video, Gorden Wagener, chief design officier for the Daimler Group, explains that the ATVR doesn't so much have wheels as it does "animal paws." The paw-and-flower-inspired wheels enable the vehicles to "crab walk" at 30 degrees, which would likely be a boon for parking in tight, parallel spaces.
Instead of a steering wheel, there's a central control pad that the driver (or passenger) can rest their hand on and move left or right, backwards or forwards, to pilot the car, should they wish to... but the idea is that the car will be primarily autonomous.
A car that talks to you — Vera Schmidt, director of advanced user experience design, says with the AVTR the idea is to make it an extension of the owner rather than merely being an object beholden to human commands. There's no steering wheel, no display buttons, and no touch screens. All interactions are controlled with gestures or the via central control unit (which for extra, biologically-inspired strangeness, pulses like a heartbeat), and the interface's confirmations include full-surface (rather than full-screen) projections on the interior.
The exterior is devoid of any sharp corners, and there are translucent panels in lieu of conventional doors, so if you ever get to drive one you're going to want to wear pants which, granted, is probably good advice whatever you're driving. It's the motoring equivalent of wearing closed shoes when riding an e-scooter, really.
Flaps that "talk" — 33 flaps on the rear of the vehicle affect the aerodynamics and "communicate" with other drivers (they change angle and color to indicate accelerating, turning or braking). Like the rest of the lighting on and in the AVTR Vision the flaps are AI-powered, which Mercedes says allows the car to "express emotions." That's some ludicrous marketing speak if ever we've heard it, but we can't deny we're enthralled by the vehicle nonetheless.
Whether we'll ever actually see the AVTR on an actual road (rather than a closed, private one resembling a runway) remains to be seen, but Mercedes-Benz is certainly playing the hype-building marketing game right.